American soldiers adopt orphans in France
Wednesday, March 08, 2017 12:38 PM
More headlines from the Stars & Stripes, dated Nov. 29, 19l8. “Surpassing all soldier precedent for generous and spontaneous giving, the AEF (Allied Expeditionary Force) this week adopted 294 fatherless little children from France.” For Christmas giving, the War Orphan Campaign had gone over many, many francs.
Since Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918, the American soldiers in France became godfathers to 1,670 stricken youngsters. They had adopted these children, assuring them of a home and all that goes with it for a full year. The American Red Cross was prepared to administer the responsibility of the children who were desperately in need of food, clothing and money. In fact, the “orphan campaign” would end on Dec. 16 due to the demand, but all adoptees would be cared for eventually. Officers, units, employees, individuals, Sunday school classes, captains, batteries, services, companies, etc., offered to adopt anywhere from one or two to 86 orphans, and the outpouring of francs was truly amazing. One gent said, “I was an orphan, so I know what it feels like.”
At Bordeaux, France, 1,400 sick and injured Yanks departed for the United States. “It was a regular going-home party, despite the fact many members carried wounds that would mark them for life.” The men were taken from hospital by special train to the embarkation docks where a large hospital had been erected to take care of them until they were put on ships. Under the supervision of the Red Cross, medical personnel were in attendance to take care of them, and clerks were kept busy with necessary records. For many, the slogan that had been adopted on the battlefield of France, “Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken (USA) by Christmas!” was about to come true.
“Yankee Pie for Orphans” headed several paragraphs. Five batteries of 90 men each adopted seven children. To celebrate the adoption, the men of the anti-aircraft unit held an open house near Paris. A total of 3,000 men were present, 100 YMCA and Red Cross “girls,” and countless orphans. All received a piece of real American apple pie! There was entertainment by the YMCA and a captain who spoke of the remarkable record of the American Anti-Aircraft Service at the front. The orphan campaign continued for some time.
The next issue on Jan. 3, 1919, had these headlines: “It is only a matter of patience.” At noon on Dec. 21 it was announced that 5,571 officers and 111,000 men were at the base port, ready to sail for home. Under orders to move to Brest, France, were another 62,000, as soon as they could be accommodated. Secretary of War Baker declared, «The process of demobilization is moving swiftly according to plans; that America will return her armed power to the pursuit of peace with all due speed.»
At a special Christmas event, 10,000 Yanks (representing the entire AEF) heard General Pershing introduce President Woodrow Wilson, their commander-in-chief, “I am proud to declare to the president that no army has ever more loyally or effectively served its country and none has ever fought a nobler cause.”
The 3rd Army made a Rhine Christmas community event with a 40’ outdoor tree blazing with light an astonishing surprise to the residents of Coblenz who wondered at an “outdoor” tree. And more heart-warming — almost 2,000,000 francs for 3,444 sons and daughter orphans of Frenchmen who had died during the war. The fund was to help educate and support these children during the years to come.
Sad news: France mobilized 6.9 million men; losses totaled 2.3 million. Can you believe that? Russian figures may have exceeded those losses, and destruction of property — in the billions of francs.
Another headline: “President talks peace in England; is now in Italy.” The commander-in-chief reported back to Paris on New Year’s Eve that after a six-day tour in England, he visited with the premier; then he headed to Italy.